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Familar face. Image by VW.

Familar face
VW's latest Golf includes a raft of changes beneath the skin plus a subtle update of the exterior styling.


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| Week at the Wheel | VW Golf GT TDI |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

On first acquaintance you need to look hard to spot the differences made to the exterior design of the new Golf. However, once you've seen new next to old or had them pointed out to you there are plenty of changes, most tellingly in the light treatments front and rear which, as well as sharing a clear genetic line with other new VWs - such as the Scirocco - add a definite edge to the Golf's appearance. The front in particular, with the new bonnet profile and grille, has a much more defined look and the more pronounced shoulder line that runs down the flanks gives the impression of a more sporting stance.

On the inside it's very much business as usual for the Golf, which means class leading levels of quality, fit and finish. Every knob and switch is well designed, easy to find and slick to operate. The entire ethos is captured almost perfectly in the dash display of dials, gauges and information screen that remain the epitome of simplistic style and clarity.

It's been said that many of the latest changes to the Golf were aimed at reducing manufacturing costs to increase profitability in this most challenging of market sectors in these difficult economic times. VW has managed to achieve this with no obvious sacrifice in terms of the car's quality or abilities; a fine result indeed.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Our test car was fitted with the 138bhp four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that is likely to be one of the stronger sellers in the range, and rightfully so. It blends muscular real world performance - to rival most petrol alternatives - with fuel consumption figures in the mid forties (mpg) and the low emissions figures that such economy equates to. The manual gearbox remains the more sensible choice as the fairly expensive DSG loses some of its undoubted benefits if not specified in tandem with the paddles for changing gears - without which it effectively becomes a slick shifting, and more efficient, automatic gearbox. The slight shortcoming of smooth pull-away and low speed manoeuvring as the electronics actuate the clutch action also remains.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Having fallen short of class honours last time, VW set about improving the Golf's dynamics as a matter of priority when delivering this car to market. In practice the efforts have yielded results with a more direct and engaging driving experience. However, it remains some way shy of the perpetual class leader that is the Ford Focus. It's hardly a criticism of the Golf though, as no other rivals have managed to match the Ford, and the Golf compares very favourably with the majority of cars in its class. Where it does excel is in terms of the refinement and comfort on offer; VW's ability to make its smaller cars feel like much bigger ones remains an enviable talent.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

VW's Golf remains a premium offering and is priced accordingly. However, it doesn't take an awful lot of time of looking over it and being in the car to understand why; it remains the class benchmark for many of the real world factors that appeal to car buyers in terms of living with a car on a daily basis and having one on the driveway. Many of these things are hard to apply a quotient to, but perception of quality and the feel good factor are beyond question. In cold hard terms some rivals - notably the Korean upstarts - offer more equipment and better warranty cover for much less money. However, they can't match the Golf's kerb appeal, image or desirability.

Overall: star star star star star

In many ways VW's claims that the previous Golf was the benchmark and therefore the only car it had to beat were pretty hard to refute; perhaps dynamics were the only weak link in an otherwise impressive package. This latest model maintains that status quo; it's almost peerless in terms of the ownership experience and desirability but still falls short of the class leading dynamics of the usual suspects. Overall, if the ultimate driving experience isn't top of your list, the Golf does indeed remain the car to beat.

Dave Jenkins - 6 Feb 2009    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Golf images

2009 Volkswagen Golf specifications: (GT TDI 140 DSG)
Price: 20,537 on-the-road
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 129mph
Combined economy: 52.3mpg
Emissions: 142g/km
Kerb weight: 1322kg

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.

2009 VW Golf. Image by VW.


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